Shabbat • Parshat Terumah
Let them make Me a Mikdash,
and I will dwell within them.
This Shabbat is not only the 20th anniversary of Cantor Rollin’s Bat Mitzvah, but also two years since we were here interviewing and auditioning for the position of rabbi for this community.
What impressed us most then, and what still impresses us today, was not the glitz of Aspen, nor the celebrities, nor even the awe-inspiring surroundings and outdoor adventure opportunities -- but the people.
From our first weekend here, two Februarys ago, we were blown away by the people. How warm, welcoming, honest. How down to earth! How happy to be living or visiting here. How grateful.
This week I looked back at something we prepared for the search committee back then, which we called our “Ideas for Aspen.” It filled 3 pages with our vision for what this community could be.
And the places where we have achieved that already, where we’ve had success and fulfillment, are the ones where people make the difference, where relationships are valued above all.
From my intro to Judaism course last year (“Newish to Jewish”), to our monthly Shabbat rock band Shir Bliss, to the learning sessions I’m doing at local churches, to the progress we've made with the school board and staff leadership regarding Jewish holidays and the district calendar, to the b’nai mitzvah program and worship services, and musical performances, and outdoor spirituality -- they have all worked because of the people who make them possible.
Because of YOU.
You and others showed up with your enthusiasm and with your unique gifts, just as this Torah portion reminds us:
Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for [God] from every person whose heart so moves him. (Exodus 25:2)
This communal generosity of spirit is the background for the main event, the building of the Tabernacle, which we heard chanted just now:
v’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham / Let them make Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell among them.
“Among” them, our translation says, but more precisely, “within” them. A congregation, a sanctuary, is nothing without the individuals who comprise it. A physical space, even one as lovely as this, is just a tool, a vessel.
Without our gifts, it remains empty, cold, inanimate. (Even colder when we forget to turn the heat on in advance!) We make it holy by our presence, by our being present for each other.
While I am proud of what we have accomplished together in about 18 months, we are just getting started.
The last phrase of our Torah portion tonight, summing up God’s instructions on the Mishkan, says it all:
v’chen ta-asu / and so you shall make it (Exod 25:9).
It’s in the future tense, because I think we are always in the process of making sacred community, building and rebuilding, perfecting or tearing down and trying again.
The fact that you are here tonight means you are already bringing something to the table. My questions, for all of us, are:
What gifts do you still have in you, to bring holiness to our community?
Who else could you bring along, to share the holiness, connectedness, spirituality, or whatever it is that you’ve found here?
What else can we do as a community to keep building our mikdash, our sanctuary, here in the valley? And how do you want to be involved in that building?
There are a number of ways in the near future to get involved, and you’ll hear about many of them tonight. From a congregational vision process, to a Purim spiel, a concert, holiday celebrations, Shabbat greeters, membership and outreach... and so much more...
But more than any program or event, the real meat of what we do happens when people meet.
So, introduce yourself to someone new. Reconnect with someone you thought you knew. Sit down with me or Cantor Rollin to talk about your life journey, your Jewish identity, with your questions and doubts; about what keeps you up at night, and what you want to do in the world to leave your mark.
To create a community where the divine dwells within us, we first have to recognize that God dwells in each of us, but incompletely.
v’shachanti b’tocham: I will dwell among THEM, collectively, says God.
When we bring our individual sparks together, there’s no limit to the sacredness we can create.